Featured News Blog gets POFMAed for suggesting PM Lee and DPM Wong deliberately concealed...

Blog gets POFMAed for suggesting PM Lee and DPM Wong deliberately concealed S Iswaran’s arrest

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SINGAPORE: Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah has issued a correction order under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) to a local blog for suggesting that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong deliberately concealed Transport Minister S Iswaran’s arrest.

Mr Iswaran was arrested and subsequently released on bail by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) on 11 July. Mr Lee and Mr Wong publicly confirmed the next day, on 12 June, that Mr Iswaran is assisting the anti-graft agency in an ongoing probe.

No mention of an arrest was made by the ruling party leaders. It was only on 14 July that the CPIB, an agency under the PMO, disclosed the arrest.

On 16 July, the ‘Political Sophistry’ blog published an article suggesting that the arrest was not disclosed as it was politically embarrassing and that Mr Wong deliberately withheld the information in order to conceal the truth.

Calling these statements false, the Government has asserted that its decision to refrain from disclosing the arrest was not a deliberate cover-up.

It said today that Mr Lee and Mr Wong did not disclose the arrest on 12 July as they did not want to deviate from what the CPIB had said in its 12 July media statement.

Arguing that the CPIB should make the call on when to release operational information, the Government said: “Whether to arrest a person under investigation is an operational judgement by CPIB.

“In addition, whether and when to make public that a person has been arrested in connection with their investigations is a decision for the CPIB. In the usual course, it is the CPIB (and not Ministers) which releases such information.”

Pointing out that CPIB did not disclose the arrest in its press release on 12 July 2023 and only stated that Mr Iswaran was assisting in a probe, the Government said:

“As it is CPIB’s operational judgement when and whether to make public that a person has been arrested in connection with their investigations, PM’s statement of 12 July 2023 and DPM Wong at his doorstop interview on the same day were consistent with CPIB’s 12 July 2023 press release.

“It is therefore untrue that PM or DPM Wong did not want to disclose the fact of Minister Iswaran’s arrest because it was politically embarrassing, or that DPM had deliberately withheld information on the arrests because he wanted to conceal the truth.

“It is also not a case of PM and DPM Wong abdicating their responsibility to disclose such information. Instead, PM and DPM did not want to deviate from what CPIB had announced in its statement since this is related to operational matters.”

The Government added, “Ministers have to let CPIB independently decide on the release of operational information. CPIB must be afforded the necessary time and space it needs to conduct a proper, thorough, and independent investigation.”

Under the POFMA order, the individuals running the ‘Political Sophistry’ blog are required to insert a notice against the original post, with a link to the Government’s clarification.

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